Burundi: govt implicates 34 including journalists in attempted coup plot
In an attempt to go after suspects in last year’s May 13 foiled coup, the High Court in Burundi has named 34 ex-police and military officers, journalists and politicians wanted for prosecution.
All the individuals on the list are currently in exile after fleeing in the course of the ongoing turmoil in the Central African nation.
In a statement issued Tuesday evening, the Secretary General of Burundi’s Supreme Court Agnes Bangiricenge called on countries hosting the blacklisted persons to arrest and extradite them to Burundi for trial.
Among the suspects include military and police officers, former members of the ruling party, civil society leaders, and three journalists and four media executives of the independent radios shut down in the wake of last year’s failed coup.
The media fraternity in Burundi deplored the government’s move to include reporters and media managers on the list of the suspected thwarted coup saying it was shocking disheartening.
Samson Maniradukunda, the acting Director of Radio Isanganiro, one of the radios banned because of their decision to air speeches of the coup leaders last May said it is hurting to see fellow journalists on the infamous list but hoped they get a fair trial.
“We were not surprised to see some of our colleagues on the list of suspects in the failed coup of May last year because we already had information that among our fellow journalists, some of them are under investigation,” he told Afrika Reporter adding that “Also, the fact that they have been denied access to the premises of their destroyed radio was a sign that the judiciary suspected some of the journalists. It’s heartbreaking but we hope they will have a fair trial.”
The development comes at a time when private journalists in Burundi are being subjected to constant harassment, intimidation and arrests.
The government accuses some journalists working with private media outlets of collaborating with leaders of last year’s attempt to overthrow President Pierre Nkurunziza but Mr. Maniradukunda says the state’s attitude is unwarranted.
About 40 Burundian journalists and media managers are believed to have fled the country following the government crackdown in the aftermath failed coup.
Four private radio and television stations; RPA, Bonesha, Renaissance and Isanganiro aired live the address of Maj. General Godefroid Niyombare, the leader of the aborted coup plot.
The media houses were subsequently besieged and ransacked by the police before being officially banned to operate pending government probe into their role in the plot.
The media quartet is still closed despite President Nkurunziza’s pledge to reopen it.